John R. "Cy" Elmburg
2009 Outstanding Entrepreneur
An ordinary object in the hands of an intrepid entrepreneur can become a source of vast business opportunities. Such was the case with a drab-green, five gallon fuel container that John R. “Cy” Elmburg picked up more than 40 years ago and ultimately transformed into a bright red American icon and a diverse consumer products company.
The quintessential entrepreneur, Elmburg discovered free enterprise at an early age. By the time he had earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Wisconsin in 1964, he had created numerous business ventures.
Elmburg started his professional career with Baxter Laboratories in Chicago and then joined U.S. Metal Container Company, a maker of one style of military gas cans. In 1966, he acquired the company and ventured into the consumer products arena with the bright red “jerry” can that was sold to retailers across the country.
Under Elmburg’s leadership, the company could foresee the opportunities in plastics. By 1985, it had acquired Platner Industries and moved operations to Miami, Okla. Soon after, the first line of plastic gas cans was developed. They quickly took the market by storm and nearly sent the metal gas can into obsolescence. Blitz USA was born.
The name “Blitz” was chosen from the German word “blitzkrieg” from World War II that meant “lightning war.” The Blitzkrieg proved most efficient in moving supplies, namely gas, to the front lines. When America developed equally efficient means of transporting fuel, the cans were known as jerry, or “blitz” cans.
Meanwhile, Blitz USA was developing and introducing to the marketplace many more automotive products. Today, the company specializes in automotive and lawn and garden markets and is currently the largest manufacturer of plastic gas cans in the United States.
Blitz USA has been the recipient of many awards including Best Employer of Ottawa County, and Vendor of the Year from Walmart, Autozone, Petsmart, True Value, and O’Reilly to name just a few. Constantly striving for perfection, Blitz received the prestigious Oklahoma Quality Award from Governors Frank Keating and Brad Henry.
After a 40-year career, Cy Elmburg and his family sold Blitz USA in 2007. Considering his business career as a way of life, and not just a job, he is proud to continue the family enterprises with his sons, Robert and Eric, under Crestwood Holdings, Inc.
A trustee of The University of Tulsa, Elmburg has been involved in many charitable community and state projects including the Tar Creek Super Fund and the restoration of the historic Coleman Theatre. He has also served on many corporate and charitable boards.
Elmburg and his wife, Linda, live on a working ranch near Grove, Okla., where they enjoy a variety of interests including conservation, music, arts, the outdoors and family. They have two sons, Robert & Eric, and five grandchildren.